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[The Hebrew Melodies, though obviously inferior to Lord Byron's other works, display a skill in versification and a mastery in diction, which would have raised an inferior artist to the very suminit of distinction. - JEFFREY.]
Along my bones the creeping flesh did quake; And as my damp hair stiffen'd, thus it spake:
[It was about the middle of April that his two celebrated copies of verses, "Fare thee well," and "A Sketch," made their appearance in the newspapers; and while the latter poem was generally, and, it must be owned, justly condemned, as a sort of literary assault on an obscure female, whose situation ought to have placed her as much beneath his satire, as the undignified mode of his attack certainly raised her above it, with regard to the other poem, opinions were a good deal more divided. To many it appeared a strain of true conjugal tenderness, a kind of appeal which no woman with a heart could resist; while, by others, on the contrary, it was considered to be a mere showy effusion of sentiment, as difficult for real feeling to have produced as it was easy for fancy and art, and altogether unworthy of the deep interests involved in
"Is man more just than God? Is man more pure
Yet, oh yet, thyseif deceive not; Love may sink by slow decay, But by sudden wrench, believe not Hearts can thus be torn away:
Still thine own its life retaineth-
These are words of deeper sorrow
Than the wail above the dead; Both shall live, but every morrow Wake us from a widow'd bed. And when thou would solace gather,
When our child's first accents flow, Wilt thou teach her to say "Father!" Though his care she must forego?
When her little hands shall press thee,
Those thou never more may'st see,
All my faults perchance thou knowest, All my madness none can know; All my hopes, where'er thou goest,
Wither, yet with thee they go.
Every feeling hath been shaken;
Pride, which not a world could bow, Bows to thee-by thee forsaken,
Even my soul forsakes me now:
the subject. To this latter opinion I confess my own to have, at first, strongly inclined; and suspicious as I could not help thinking the sentiment that could, at such a moment, indulge in such verses, the taste that prompted or sanctioned their publication appeared to me even still more questionable. On reading, however, his own account of all the circumstances in the Memoranda, I found that on both points I had, in common with a large portion of the public, done him injustice. He there described, and in a manner whose sincerity there was no doubting, the swell of tender recollections under the influence of which, as he sat one night musing in his study, these stanzas were produced, the tears, as he said, falling fast over the paper as he wrote them. Neither did it appear, from that account, to have been from any wish or intention of his own, but through the injudicious zeal of a friend whom he had suffered to take a copy, that the verses met the public eye. MOORE. The appearance of the MS. confirms this account of the circumstances under which it was written. It is blotted all over with the marks of tears.]
March 17. 1815.
BORN in the garret, in the kitchen bred,
She taught the child to read, and taught so well,
Oh! wretch without a tear without a thought,
May the strong curse of crush'd affections light
Nor Fortune change- - Pride raise—nor Passion bow, Black-as thy will for others would create:
But wanting one sweet weakness—to forgive,
But to the theme: -now laid aside too long,
Have given her power too deeply to instil
To make a Pandemonium where she dwells,
A plain blunt show of briefly-spoken seeming,
Look on the picture! deem it not o'ercharged -
Till thy hard heart be calcined into dust,
Look on thine earthly victims and despair!
March 29. 1816.
use weltering in the wind,' weltering on a gibbet?' I have no dictionary, so look. In the mean time, I have put festering; which, perhaps, in any case is the best word of the two. Shakspeare has it often, and I do not think it too strong for the figure in this thing. Quick! quick! quick! quick!"
Lord Byron to Mr. Murray, April 2.]
But thou and thine shall know no blight,
The kind—and thee the most of all.
Be broken-thine will never break; Thy heart can feel—but will not move; Thy soul, though soft, will never shake. And these, when all was lost beside,
Were found and still are fix'd in thee; And bearing still a breast so tried,
Earth is no desert-ev'n to me.
STANZAS TO AUGUSTA. 2 THOUGH the day of my destiny's over, And the star of my fate hath declined, 3
[The Poet's sister, the Honourable Mrs. Leigh. stanzas the parting tribute to her, whose unshaken tenderness had been the author's sole consolation during the crisis of domestic misery-were, we believe, the last verses written by Lord Byron in England. In a note to Mr. Rogers, dated April 16th, he says, "My sister is now with me, and leaves town to-morrow: we shall not meet again for some time at all events, if ever! and, under these circumstances. I trust to stand excused to you and Mr. Sheridan, for being unable to wait upon him this evening." On the 25th, the Poet took a last leave of his native country.]
2 [These beautiful verses, so expressive of the writer's wounded feelings at the moment, were written in July, at the Campagne Diodati, near Geneva, and transmitted to England for publication, with some other pieces. "Be careful," he
Thy soft heart refused to discover
The faults which so many could find; Though thy soul with my grief was acquainted,
It shrunk not to share it with me,
Then when nature around me is smiling, The last smile which answers to mine, I do not believe it beguiling,
Because it reminds me of thine;
And when winds are at war with the ocean,
It is that they bear me from thee.
Though the rock of my last hope is shiver'd,
To pain-it shall not be its slave.
They may crush, but they shall not contemnThey may torture, but shall not subdue me'Tis of thee that I think-not of them. Though human, thou didst not deceive me, Though woman, thou didst not forsake, Though loved, thou forborest to grieve me,
Though slander'd, thou never couldst shake, Though trusted, thou didst not disclaim me, Though parted, it was not to fly, Though watchful, 't was not to defame me, Nor, mute, that the world might belie." Yet I blame not the world, nor despise it, Nor the war of the many with oneIf my soul was not fitted to prize it,
"T was folly not sooner to shun: And if dearly that error hath cost me,
And more than I once could foresee, I have found that, whatever it lost me, It could not deprive me of thee.
From the wreck of the past, which hath perish'd,
It hath taught me that what I most cherish'd
In the desert a fountain is springing,
In the wide waste there still is a tree, And a bird in the solitude singing,
Which speaks to my spirit of thee.
July 24. 1816
EPISTLE TO AUGUSTA. 6
My sister! my sweet sister! if a name Dearer and purer were, it should be thine. Mountains and seas divide us, but I claim No tears, but tenderness to answer mine:
says, "in printing the stanzas beginning, Though the day of my destiny's,' &c., which I think well of as a composition."] 3 ["Though the days of my glory are over,
And the sun of my fame hath declined."- MS.] ["There is many a pang to pursue me,
And many a peril to stem:
They may torture, but shall not subdue me;
They may crush, but they shall not contemn."-MS.] ["Though watchful, 't was but to reclaim me, Nor, silent, to sanction a lie." - MS.]
[These stanzas-" Than which," says the Quarterly Review, for January, 1831, "there is, perhaps, nothing more mournfully and desolately beautiful in the whole range of Lord Byron's poetry were also written at Diodati; and
Go where I will, to me thou art the same — A loved regret which I would not resign, There yet are two things in my destiny, A world to roam through, and a home with thee. The first were nothing - had I still the last,. It were the haven of my happiness; But other claims and other ties thou hast, And mine is not the wish to make them less. A strange doom is thy father's son's, and past Recalling, as it lies beyond redress;
Reversed for him our grandsire's fate of yore, He had no rest at sea, nor I on shore.
If my inheritance of storms hath been
In other elements, and on the rocks
Of perils, overlook'd or unforeseen,
I have sustain'd my share of worldly shocks, The fault was mine; nor do I seek to screen My errors with defensive paradox;
I have been cunning in mine overthrow, The careful pilot of my proper woe.
Mine were my faults, and mine be their reward, My whole life was a contest, since the day That gave me being, gave me that which marr'd The gift, -a fate, or will, that walk'd astray; And I at times have found the struggle hard, And thought of shaking off my bonds of clay : But now I fain would for a time survive, If but to see what next can well arrive.
Kingdoms and empires in my little day I have outlived, and yet I am not old; And when I look on this, the petty spray Of my own years of trouble, which have roll'd Like a wild bay of breakers, melts away : Something I know not what-does still uphold A spirit of slight patience; -not in vain, Even for its own sake, do we purchase pain.
Perhaps the workings of defiance stir Within me, -or perhaps a cold despair, Brought on when ills habitually recur,— Perhaps a kinder clime, or purer air, (For even to this may change of soul refer, And with light armour we may learn to bear,) Have taught me a strange quiet, which was not The chief companion of a calmer lot.
I feel almost at times as I have felt
In happy childhood; trees, and flowers, and brooks Which do remember me of where I dwelt Ere my young mind was sacrificed to books, Come as of yore upon me, and can melt My heart with recognition of their looks; And even at moments I could think I see Some living thing to love - but none like thee.
sent home at the time for publication, in case Mrs. Leigh should sanction it. "There is," he says, "amongst the manuscripts an Epistle to my Sister, on which I should wish her opinion to be consulted before publication; if she objects, of course omit it." On the 5th of October he writes, "My sister has decided on the omission of the lines. Upon this point, her option will be followed. As I have no copy of them, I request that you will preserve one for me in MS.; for I never can remember a line of that nor any other composition of mine. God help me! if I proceed in this scribbling, I shall have frittered away my mind before I am thirty; but poetry is at times a real relief to me. To-morrow I am for Italy." The Epistle was first given to the world in 1830.]
[Admiral Byron was remarkable for never making a voyage without a tempest. He was known to the sailors by the facetious name of " Four-weather Jack."
"But, though it were tempest-toss'd, Still his bark could not be lost."
With false Ambition what had I to do? Little with Love, and least of all with Fame; And yet they came unsought, and with me grew, And made me all which they can make a name. Yet this was not the end I did pursue; Surely I once beheld a nobler aim. But all is over- I am one the more To baffled millions which have gone before. And for the future, this world's future-may From me demand but little of my care; I have outlived myself by many a day; Having survived so many things that were;
My years have been no slumber, but the prey Of ceaseless vigils; for had the share Of life which might have fill'd a century, Before its fourth in time had pass'd me by.
And for the remnant which may be to come I am content; and for the past I feel Not thankless, - for within the crowded sum Of struggles, happiness at times would steal, And for the present, I would not benumb My feelings farther. Nor shall I conceal That with all this I still can look around, And worship Nature with a thought profound.
For thee, my own sweet sister, in thy heart I know myself secure, as thou in mine; We were and are—I am, even as thou art— Beings who ne'er each other can resign; It is the same, together or apart, From life's commencement to its slow decline We are entwined—let death come slow or fast, The tie which bound the first endures the last!
ON HEARING THAT LADY BYRON WAS ILL. 1 AND thou wert sad—yet I was not with thee!
And thou wert sick, and yet I was not near; Methought that joy and health alone could be
Where I was not — and pain and sorrow here. And is it thus?—it is as I foretold,
And shall be more so; for the mind recoils Upon itself, and the wreck'd heart lies cold,
While heaviness collects the shatter'd spoils. It is not in the storm nor in the strife
We feel benumb'd, and wish to be no more, But in the after-silence on the shore, When all is lost, except a little life.
I am too well avenged! - but 't was my right; Whate'er my sins might be, thou wert not sent To be the Nemesis who should requite—
Nor did Heaven choose so near an instrument. Mercy is for the merciful! - if thou Hast been of such, 't will be accorded now.
[These verses were written immediately after the failure of the negotiation for a reconciliation before Lord Byron left Switzerland for Italy, but were not intended for the public eye: as. however, they have recently found their way into circulation, we include them in this collection.]
2 ["Lord Byron had at least this much to say for himself, that he was not the first to make his domestic differences a topic of public discussion. On the contrary, he saw himself, ere any fact but the one undisguised and tangible one was, or could be known, held up every where, and by every art of malice, as the most infamous of men,- because he had parte 1 from his wife. He was exquisitively sensitive: he was wounded at once by a thousand arrows; and all this with the most perfect and indignant knowledge, that of all who were assailing him not one knew any thing of the real merits of the case. Did he right, then, in publishing those squibs and tirades? No, certainly: it would have been nobler, better, wiser far, to have utterly scorned the assaults of such encmies, and taken no notice, of any kind, of them. But, because this young, hot-blooded, proud, patrician poet did not, amidst the exacerbation of feelings which he could not control, act in precisely the most dignified and wisest of all possible manners of action, are we entitled, is the world at large entitled, to issue a broad sentence of vituperative condemnation? Do we know all that he had suffered ?have we imagination enough to comprehend what he suffered, under circumstances such as these have we been tried in similar circumstances, whether we could feel the wound unflinchingly, and keep the weapon quiescent in the hand that trembled with all the excitements of insulted privacy, honour, and faith? Let people consider for a moment what it is that they demand when they insist upon a poet of Byron's class
Thy nights are banish'd from the realms of sleep! —
I have had many foes, but none like thee;
On things that were not, and on things that are
in thy own weakness
A monument, whose cement hath been guilt!
Which, but for this cold treason of thy heart,
Trafficking with them in a purpose cold,
All found a place in thy philosophy.
abstaining altogether from expressing in his works any thing of his own feelings in regard to any thing that immediately concerns his own history. We tell him in every possible form and shape, that the great and distinguishing merit of his poetry is the intense truth with which that poetry expresses his own personal feelings. We encourage him in every possible way to dissect his own heart for our entertainmentwe tempt him by every bribe most likely to act powerfully on a young and imaginative man, to plunge into the darkest depths of self-knowledge; to madden his brain with eternal self-scrutinies, to find his pride and his pleasure in what others shrink from as torture we tempt him to indulge in these dangerous exercises, until they obviously acquire the power of leading him to the very brink of frenzy - we tempt him to find, and to see in this perilous vocation, the staple of his existence, the food of his ambition, the very essence of his glory, and the moment that, by habits of our own creating, at least of our own encouraging and confirming, he is carried one single step beyond what we happen to approve of, we turn round with all the bitterness of spleen, and reproach him with the unmanliness of entertaining the public with his feelings in regard to his separation from his wife. This was truly the conduct of a fair and liberal public! To our view of the matter, Lord Byron, treated as he had been, tempted as he had been, and tortured and insulted as he was at the moment, did no more forfeit his character by writing what he did write upon that unhappy occasion, than another man, under circumstances of the same nature, would have done, by telling something of his mind about it to an intimate friend across the fire. The public had forced him into the habits of familiarity, and they received his confidence with nothing but anger and scorn.' -LOCKHART.]