ePub 版

than their due portion of punishment, there can be little doubt that a very different result would have ensued. Not only would such an excitement have been insufficient to waken up the new energies still dormant in him, but that consciousness of his own errors, which was for ever livelily present in his mind, would, under such circumstances, have been left, undisturbed by any unjust provocation, to work its usual softening and, perhaps, humbling influences on his spirit. But,-luckily, as it proved, for the further triumphs of his genius,-no such moderation was exercised. The storm of invective raised around him, so utterly out of proportion with his offences, and the base calumnies that were everywhere heaped upon his name, left to his wounded pride no other resource than in the same summoning up of strength, the same instinct of resistance to injustice, which had first forced out the energies of his youthful genius, and was now destined to give a still bolder and loftier range to its powers.

It was, indeed, not without truth, said of him by Goethe, that he was inspired by the Genius of Pain,— for, from the first to the last of his agitated career, every fresh recruitment of his faculties was imbibed from that bitter source. His chief incentive, when a boy, to distinction was, as we have seen, that mark of deformity on his person, by an acute sense of which he was first stung into the ambition of being great *. As, with an evident reference to his own fate, he himself describes the feeling,



In one of his letters to Mr. Hunt, he declares it to be his own opinion that an addiction to poetry is very generally the result of "an ⚫ uneasy mind in an uneasy body;" disease or deformity,' he adds, have been the attendants of many of our best. Collins mad-Chatterton, I think, mad-Cowper mad-Pope crooked-Milton blind,"'' &c. &c.

[ocr errors]

Deformity is daring.

'It is its essence to o'ertake mankind

By heart and soul, and make itself the equal,—


Ay, the superior of the rest. There is

'A spur in its halt movements, to become

< All that the others cannot, in such things


As still are free to both, to compensate
For stepdame Nature's avarice at first*.*

Then came the disappointment of his youthful passion, the lassitude and remorse of premature excess, -the lone friendlessness of his entrance into life, and the ruthless assault upon his first literary efforts,-all links in that chain of trials, errors, and sufferings, by which his great mind was gradually and painfully drawn out;-all bearing their respective shares in accomplishing that destiny which seems to have decreed that the triumphal march of his genius should be over the waste and ruins of his heart. He appeared, indeed, himself to have had an instinctive consciousness that it was out of such ordeals his strength and glory were to arise, as his whole life was passed in courting agitation and difficulties; and whenever the scenes around him were too tame to furnish such excitement, he flew to fancy or memory for thorns' whereon to 'lean his breast.'

But the greatest of his trials, as well as triumphs, was yet to come. The last stage of this painful, though glorious, course, in which fresh power was, at every step, wrung from out his soul, was that at which we are now arrived, his marriage and its results,without which, dear as was the price paid by him in peace and character, his career would have been incomplete, and the world still left in ignorance of the full compass of his genius. It is indeed worthy of

*The Deformed Transformed.

remark, that it was not till his domestic circumstances began to darken around him that his fancy, which had long been idle, again rose upon the wing,-both the Siege of Corinth and Parisina having been produced but a short time before the separation. How conscious he was, too, that the turmoil which followed was the true element of his restless spirit, may be collected from several passages of his letters at that period, in one of which he even mentions that his health had become all the better for the conflict:'It is odd,' he says, but agitation or contest of any • kind gives a rebound to my spirits, and sets me up 'for the time.'

This buoyancy it was,-this irrepressible spring of mind, that now enabled him to bear up not only against the assaults of others, but, what was still more difficult, against his own thoughts and feelings. The muster of all his mental resources to which, in selfdefence, he had been driven, but opened to him the yet undreamed extent and capacity of his powers, and inspired him with a proud confidence that he should yet shine down these calumnious mists, convert censure to wonder, and compel even those who could not approve to admire.

The route which he now took, through Flanders and by the Rhine, is best traced in his own matchless verses, which leave a portion of their glory on all that they touch, and lend to scenes, already clothed with immortality by nature and by history, the no less durable associations of undying song. On his leaving Brussels, an incident occurred which would be hardly worth relating, were it not for the proof it affords of the malicious assiduity with which everything to his disadvantage was now caught up and circulated in

England. Mr. Pryce Gordon, a gentleman, who appears to have seen a good deal of him during his short stay at Brussels, thus relates the anecdote.

[ocr errors]



'Lord Byron travelled in a huge coach, copied from 'the celebrated one of Napoleon, taken at Genappe, ' with additions. Besides a lit de repos, it contained a library, a plate-chest, and every apparatus for dining in it. It was not, however, found sufficiently 'capacious for his baggage and suite; and he pur'chased a calèche at Brussels for his servants. It 'broke down going to Waterloo, and I advised him to return it, as it seemed to be a crazy machine; but as ' he had made a deposit of forty Napoleons (certainly 'double its value), the honest Fleming would not con'sent to restore the cash, or take back his packingcase, except under a forfeiture of thirty Napoleons. 'As his lordship was to set out the following day, he 'begged me to make the best arrangement I could in 'the affair. He had no sooner taken his departure, 'than the worthy sellier inserted a paragraph in "The

Brussels Oracle," stating "that the noble milor An'glais had absconded with his calèche, value 1800 'francs!"'


[ocr errors]

In the Courier of May 13, the Brussels account of this transaction is thus copied.

The following is an extract from the Dutch Mail, dated Brussels, May 8th.-In the Journal de Bel'gique, of this date, is a petition from a coachmaker


at Brussels to the president of the Tribunal de Pre'mier Instance, stating that he has sold to Lord Byron ' a carriage, &c. for 1882 francs, of which he has re


[ocr errors]

ceived 847 francs, but that his lordship, who is going

away the same day, refuses to pay him the remaining '1035 francs; he begs permission to seize the car

'riage, &c. This being granted, he put it into the hands of a proper officer, who went to signify the 'above to Lord Byron, and was informed by the landlord of the hotel that his lordship was gone without having given him anything to pay the debt, ' on which the officer seized a chaise belonging to his 'lordship as security for the amount.'

It was not till the beginning of the following month that a contradiction of this falsehood, stating the real circumstances of the case, as above related, was communicated to the Morning Chronicle, in a letter from Brussels, signed 'Pryce L. Gordon.'


Another anecdote, of far more interest, has been furnished from the same respectable source. It appears that the two first stanzas of the verses relating to Waterloo, Stop, for thy tread is on an empire's dust*,' were written at Brussels, after a visit to that memorable field, and transcribed by Lord Byron, next morning, in an album belonging to the lady of the gentleman who communicates the anecdote.

A few weeks after he had written them (says the relater), the well-known artist, R. R. Reinagle, a 'friend of mine, arrived in Brussels, when I invited him to dine with me and showed him the lines, re


[ocr errors][ocr errors]

questing him to embellish them with an appropriate

vignette to the following passage:

Here his last flight the haughty eagle flew,

'Then tore, with bloody beak, the fatal plain;

'Pierced with the shafts of banded nations through,
'Ambition's life, and labours, all were vain-


'He wears the shatter'd links of the world's broken chain.'

Mr. Reinagle sketched with a pencil a spirited. 'chained eagle, grasping the earth with his talons,

* Childe Harold, Canto iii., stanza 17,

« 上一頁繼續 »