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helmets upon which his family arms were gorgeously emblazoned. He thought, perhaps, that he was to inake one in a new brotherhood of chivalry, to be the Achilles of a second Iliad, or the Arthur of another Round Table; that he should turn the tide of battle by the mere exhibition of his person, wherever he made his appearance ; sweep away with the breath of his nostrils the miscreant enemy, Turks, Albanians, Tartars, Pachas, and all ; rush on with a few faithful followers to Constantinople, and plant the standard of the cross upon the dome of St Sophia at the close of the first campaign. If his good genius, or rather if the sober divinity of plain common sense, could have gained possession for a day or two, nay for a few hours only, of this grand and generous but bewildered intellect,—could have pointed out the vanity of all these idle fancies, and shewn the bard how utterly unfit he was to engage in this wild and savage warfare,-he might at this moment have been writing more poetry at Pisa, or wherever else he was last residing. And oh! if the same power could have freed his noble heart for a moment from the gross enchantments of low sensual pleasure, that had got possession of it ; could have conquered the stern spirit of ferocious pride, that ruled within him, and infused into his angry bosom the sweet balm of benevolence and charity ; could have cleared his intellectual eye from the clouds that covered it, and raised up before him the charming forms of truth, and virtue, and religion, in all their celestial purity and beauty ;-how quickly he would have quitted the fatal cause in which he had engaged himself ; with what disgust he would have turned from his vicious associates, and his corrupt Italian haunts, and have hurried back to his natural friends, and his own happy country; with what new ardor and patience he would have devoted himself to his favorite art; and with how much better taste, and doubtless higher and more brilliant success, he would have lobored in it, when like Hercules of old he had given to virtue all his mighty mind. But no, he must go to Greece ; and to die as he did, when he got there, was almost the necessary consequence of going. What could his ethereal spirit, nursed in the lap of luxury, and fed forever on the luscious diet of poetry and romance, find to do in the fens and forests of Etolia? It was natural, it was unavoidable, that the ceaseless excitement, the endless toil and trouble of his thoughts, should wear out his body and give him up an easy prey to the first untoward accident. And so it fell out.
His favorite attendant was shot by a Suliote, who probably thought no more of it, than a British peer would do of bringing down a woodcock ; but the same ball killed Lord Byron. The rage and horror which he felt at this piece of wanton barbarity threw him into epileptic fits, from the consequences of which he never wholly recovered. Then came the fatigue and exposure, incident to the sort of business in which he was engaged. These brought on a fever ; and with his highly irritable frame, without any proper nursing or medical attendance, a fever could not well turn out otherwise than fatally. Thus perished in the vigor of life and the fulness of his powers, the greatest poet of the age. The Greeks went into mourning for him, and the news of his death has struck the civilised world with a deep sentiment of sorrow; but no tears or lamentations will bring us back the spirit, that has gone to seek some other dwelling. No living hand can venture to break the silence of the lyre, that he was wont to touch.
The harp the Monarch Minstrel swept,
We have thus taken, at somewhat greater length than we at first intended, a rapid review of the history of Lord Byron's life, and shall next proceed to a few remarks upon the character and value of his writings. In what we have already said, we have had occasion to anticipate, in its general features, the judgment which we purpose to deliver ; but we shall now enter more directly upon the subject, ond treat it according to the two divisions into which it naturally falls, to wit, the literary and the moral value of the works in question. The reader will easily conjecture, that we shall not attempt to exhaust so extensive an argument. We can only hint at some of the more obvious points, and endeavor to illustrate our views of them, as we go along, by occasional extracts.
1. From what has been observed above, it will readily be collected, that we consider the genius of Lord Byron as having been originally of the first order. In depth of thought, in power, brilliancy, and felicity of style, in his almost miraculous facility of production, he stood without a rival in our own day, although there are among our contemporaries some, whom it might have been thought no mean achievement to equal. Indeed he rose far above any English poet, who has lived since the time of Pope ; and if he yields to Pope in persection of style, he excels him on the other hand by succeeding in a greater number of distinct departments of the art. In satire and in lyric poetry, both sublime and pathetic, he reached the higbest degree of excellence. Childe Harold and Don Juan, to whatever technical class we may assign them, are masterpieces respectively in the serious and comic order. They rank in our opinion with the great epics of ancient and modern times. His smaller narrative poems are eminently spirited and happy. His elegies breathe the very soul of tenderness, regret, and pleasing melancholy. The most trifling thing that fell from his pen had a high value. In what a charming little lachrymatory he preserved the tears of the Princess Charlotte ! He wrote an enigma on the letter H, which is itself a beautiful poem. The drama was the only department in which he failed ; and even his dramatic poems, though failures as such, are in many respects works of the highest merit, especially Manfred, which would make the reputation of any writer. The least remarkable of them contain many brilliant and happy passages. Of all the poets of whom we have any account, Voltaire alone makes pretensions to an equal versatility of talent. We may also add, that Lord Byron wrote in prose with the same facility, power, and
grace as in verse. His letters on the theory of his favorite art, in answer to the notions of Bowles, the only prose pieces, we believe, of any length, which he published, are among the best specimens that can be produced of a pure, easy, sprightly, correct, and classical English style. Such and so various were the gifts of this extraordinary man.
To counterbalance all these merits, there are two considerable defects of a literary kind to be remarked in his writings; an occasional extravagance of thought and language, as respects the substance, and a want of care and finish in the ver
sification. Both these faults are observable in greater or less degrees in almost all his poems of any length; although some of the shorter ones are wholly free from them, and may be looked upon as complete models in their way. They grew upon him very much as he advanced in life, in consequence partly of the intellectual intoxication produced by his first rapid and brilliant successes. As far as they prevail in his earlier and better productions, they must be regarded as results of the combined influence of his personal situation and temperament, and of the state of the public taste in regard to poetry at the time when he wrote.
Poetry, like all the other arts, and like everything progressive and mutable, passes through the successive periods of advancement, maturity, and decline or corruption. While it is still in a rude state the natural effort of superior genius is to improve it. In this way it arrives at its perfection, which consists in the expression of true and natural thoughts, (of a poetical order,) in natural language. When this point has been attained, it is more doubtful what direction will be taken by a writer of great powers.
In aiming at excellence he must either attempt to surpass those, who have gone before him, in their own way, or to strike out a new one of his own ; and each of these courses is embarrassed with its peculiar difficulties. If he adopt the former plan, he becomes an imitator; and what was beauty in the model, is very apt to look like affectation in the copy. If, in order to escape from tameness and affectation, he aims directly at originality, and departs from all the existing models, he will be very likely to depart at the same time from the standard of good taste, which they have erected, and in his efforts after novelty to run into extravagance. Accordingly, there are very few writers, who have flourished after the arrival of an age of good taste, and who are not tainted more or less with one or the other of these failings. To speak only of those of England and of the poets-if we fix the point of perfection at Pope,—and Pope himself in refining upon Dryden, has gone perhaps a little beyond the mark, we shall find those who follow for the most part either tame or extravagant in thought, and in point of style either negligent or affected. Hardly one can be named, who has hit the narrow line between these opposite classes of errors ; and who adheres, in substance and in manner, to the plain and simple beauty of nature. Thus Darwin is grossly and often laughably affected in his style, and his thoughts are forced and fantastic. Cowper aims at simplicity and truth ; but is frequently careless and harsh, especially in rhyme. Those who possess the purest taste appear to be timid, and write but little. They hardly venture to trust themselves in attempts, where failure is so fatal and success so difficult. If they acquire a high reputation pretty early in life, they are apt to be contented with it, and to repose inactively for the rest of their days under the shade of their youthful laurels. Such seems to have been the case with Goldsmith and Gray, and in our own times with Campbell and Rogers"; nor have the two latter risen much in public estimation by attempting, at too late a period, to rouse themselves from this premature lethargy. The bolder sort, who go forth in search of unexplored regions, return like adventurous discoverers with freights, that are often rather curious than valuable or beautiful. Mr Scott, instead of a picture of nature, presents us too frequently with a picture of the age of chivalry. Mr Southey introduces to us all the monsters of the Hindoo mythology, and makes Kehama ride into hell over nine different bridges at the same time. Wordsworth and his school, in avoiding these faults, plunge headlong into others of an opposite character. They convert pedlars and idiots into sages, and talk like babies themselves. We mean not of course to be understood, that the different writers here mentioned have no merit, but to indicate the nature of their prevailing defects. This is also the age of the sentimental novel, in which young men and maidens, who in real life commonly retire into corners to make love, occupy the foreground of the scene, and throw entirely into shade the titled and dignified uncles and aunts, with whom they. are connected. The declining age of poetry, in short, is for strong minds the age of extravagant and unnatural thought, and of incorrect and negligent execution, while with feebler spirits it induces a tameness of conception and a languid insipidity of style.